Says a person who has never been to London and doesn't understand the enormous benefit of intimate knowledge of all the streets of London and how to navigate them quickly. No smartphone is going to help you there, even the best sat nav is not as good as simply knowing that if there is a match in the city some streets are best to be avoided hours before the event. I, for one, support wholeheartedly the requirement for London drivers to pass this difficult test.
Black cabs provided a relatively quick/convenient method of transport since they all have a ramp - not without issue but possible to get in one in less that a minute. I've not tried uber yet as I'm apprehensive about the hassle of getting in and out and getting the driver to help stow my chair. People are usually pretty keen to be helpful but it's a bit tricky and their default idea of helping is often counter productive. Also if they don't stop near the kerb you have to get them to move and the passenger side of a car is harder to get in and out due to the height of the kerb.
Black cab resides effectively subsidise my ability to get around so I am somewhat concerned to think they might be 'disrupted' wholesale.
Unregulated competition always has the risk of marginalising minorities because they might be too small to be an attractive market.
Not providing a service is not discrimination, refusing to provide is. Uber and others can simply have selection criteria listed for owners who support disabled or even large people. If there is a market for it I am sure people will step up.
Try using a Taxi in Melbourne. Most of the drivers don't know the most basic of knowledge. Main roads in the city? No idea. The casino? "Could you direct me?". Getting into a bloody Taxi in the city for a fare less than 20kms is a lesson in patience. You often have to lie about where you're going until you get into the cab.
Regulations aren't the problem. Most regulations exist for good reason, and there should be more of the better ones (and less of the worse..).
I've used Uber and really like the service when I'm going a fare (sorry) distance. But they are just as bad, if not worse, than cabs when it's only a short trip around the city.
I believe both services could co-exist, but something drastic needs to happen to shake up the Taxi business. Perhaps charge a higher flag-fall and a smaller per km rate. Try to increase the rate of owner-drivers rather than a lease out to drivers. There has been a lot of discussion in Melbourne about how to improve the service, but so far it seems to be getting worse.
I'm interested in hearing more about your Uber experiences. In my experience (and that of everyone I know), Uber has been great for short and longer distances. The Uber drivers don't even know where you want them to go until you're already in the car, so there's no way for them to discriminate.
It's frustrating because there's usually a small language barrier, and they know Manhattan just fine. Some have satnav/smart phones, but usually they do not - and end up relying on my smartphone for turn by turn directions.
Compare this to having to mess about on Google Maps for five minutes to figure out where we're going and potentially end up on the wrong side of the city anyway, which has happened to me in other cities. There's definitely something in having your driver have knowledge of the city.
The taxi driver just said, "Do you mean [restaurant name] on [name of correct street]?" And sure enough, he was right.
It's like any other industry, really. Can you imagine if short order cooks were required to have the same encyclopedic knowledge as the chefs in a high end restaurant? You'd just end up with some very expensive diners.
Also if you have 2 or more companies competing over who has the best service, that is good. But all of them have to provide a minimum quality service. Especially, for foreigners who don't know anything. For that reason regulation is required.
That regulation also can go wrong, is a different story. Then, of course, it has to be fixed.
But Uber (and some others) try to undermine any kind of regulation and so cutting costs to enable cheaper service.
That is like Food safety regulations. Like there is a new startup, which has provides a service like Amazon Fresh. It is cheaper by using just peoples cars, which may have no cooling possibility in their vehicles. Then blaming the food safety regulations are wrong because they require cooling facilities for fresh food not putting peoples life at risk.
I can only speak for Cambridge, MA (which this article also mentions), but Uber has consistently provided a VASTLY superior experience compared to traditional Cambridge cab companies. Cambridge cabs are ludicrously overpriced; are frequently poorly maintained and old; have drivers who speak poor English, talk on the phone during the whole trip, and don't know where they are going; don't accept credit cards; have overpriced fixed cost routes to popular destinations (thanks government); sometimes won't even take a fare unless they judge it's worth their while; and are hard to find.
Contrast this with Uber where the vehicles come to you; the drivers are vetted and courteous (and can be punished if they are not); the cars are new and generally nice (I have even been picked up in Mercedes S500s and a BMW 7 series on Uber X, and my friend was once picked up in a Tesla); the payment process is simple with no bullshit about tipping; the drivers are about as knowledgeable about locations as traditional Cambridge cabs; and it's CHEAPER.
I don't normally care much about local government affairs, but if Cambridge tries to protect the inferior cab service by banning Uber, I will be at the polling stations come next election trying to vote out anyone involved.
> I can only speak for Cambridge, MA (which this article also mentions), but Uber has consistently provided a VASTLY superior experience compared to traditional Cambridge cab companies. Cambridge cabs are ludicrously overpriced; are frequently poorly maintained and old; have drivers who speak poor English, talk on the phone during the whole trip, and don't know where they are going; don't accept credit cards; have overpriced fixed cost routes to popular destinations (thanks government); sometimes won't even take a fare unless they judge it's worth their while; and are hard to find.
You have read:
> > That regulation also can go wrong, is a different story. Then, of course, it has to be fixed.
Here in Germany, about 60% of the taxi market is having a Mercedes E-Class model. Taxi cars are required to have a yearly inspection regarding road safety. Drivers need the have a permit, to allow passenger transportation. You can easily loose this permit on any kind of wrong behavior in terms of not following road safety rules. The taxi driver is required to execute any driving request within city limits (coverage). They are allows to reject you only under very strict requirements like if they could argue on personal safety. You, as a passenger, can blame anybody in terms of customer satisfaction. But, of course, if you don't blame, don't expect things to change by itself.
Basically, the same applies to most countries I have been, like almost all over (western) Europe, Japan.
Of course, quality differs from city to city. In Milano, IT, I have been driven by taxi driver over red light. But that is how Italian drivers drive in some parts of Italy. It is their mentality. In Spain the taxis are a bit messier then in German. But that also applies for rentals in Spain. They also have their scratches and dents.
The experience in London - also mentioned in that article - superior, like in most parts of England.
That said, if your regulations are shitty, don't blame the government, because YOU elected the government. So get active to change things.
You say that foreigners don't know anything, but I think most travelers would disagree. When I travel to a foreign country, I am still fully capable of researching the best hotels and restaurants, despite not speaking the native tongue. Taxi service isn't any different.
I'm not saying all consumer protection laws are unnecessary, but you have to remember that regulation has a cost. Of course, there's the cost in tax money, but also the fact that regulations are slow to change when necessary. Perhaps the largest risk is regulatory capture, which we've clearly seen in the taxi industry in a number of places. For example, from the linked article:
> In France, the proposed remedy was simple: a mandated delay of 15 minutes between ordering a ride from Uber and the passenger pick-up.
I find it inconceivable that this sort of regulation is meant to protect consumers. Clearly its only purpose is to protect the profits of traditional taxis.
If it is cheap enough, people will still use it without thinking about their risks.
> You say that foreigners don't know anything, but I think most travelers would disagree. When I travel to a foreign country, I am still fully capable of researching the best hotels and restaurants, despite not speaking the native tongue. Taxi service isn't any different.
I travel a lot for business and for leisure. Just returned from a 5 weeks trip in Bhutan and the Himalayas. When arriving at my destination, I will take the taxi that is available there. So, I require and rely on, that I have an immediate possibility to check, if a minimum service quality is guaranteed. The guarantee is given by a trustee and the trustee should be government.
I don't research hotels in advance. Because the hotel quality assurance is called stars. I know, in this country I have to book a 4 star hotel and in Germany I can go with a 2 star or better 3 star. So, there is an international system and also quality assurance system. There is no such thing for taxi, because local government is basically providing that kind of service.
> > In France, the proposed remedy was simple: a mandated delay of 15 minutes between ordering a ride from Uber and the passenger pick-up.
> I find it inconceivable that this sort of regulation is meant to protect consumers. Clearly its only purpose is to protect the profits of traditional taxis.
France is always very special, especially Paris. I have experienced several shutdown on public trains or taxis as of blocked roads, just because they are on strike again.
Comparing this to food safety is quite ludicrous. You can sell apples without an "apple vendor" license.
You don't need a licence,but you need to make sure your apples adhere to hundreds of different regulations regarding food safety. The same thing here - people transporting passengers for money should adhere to regulations that make such business safe for everyone.
Why not? Grant a certification with the test, allow cab owners/companies to put a mark on the car/site/etc, sue people using the mark without authorization. Cabs around here already have big ads on their doors, I don't see why couldn't they have a logo advertising their knowledge.
Have you actually ever been to London?
By comparison, back in my lovely hometown of Plymouth, a two and half mile bus hop will set you back 3 quid. (Fortunately, the taxis are cheap.)
London transport, for what you get, is great value. And it's definitely better than any other big city I've had the pleasure of visiting. Londoners moan about it, but then no matter how efficient or economically enticing, an urban mass transport system will always be associated in the mind with
hellish rush-hour commutes, and thus a germane subject for grumbling.
I also agree the value of London transport is excellent, but I'm just saying it's not cheap. Especially if you are looking at tube/train/tram/bus transfers it starts to add up shockingly fast. Even with a travelcard I'd be paying £141.40/month which is just too much to swallow when I only have a 6-mile commute and arrive in the same amount of time as the fastest tube. Plus with the crowds, disruptions, strikes, "persons under a train" and other random commuter trauma I just can't say enough good things about cycling in London.
£2 to rent a bicycle for 24 hours seems pretty reasonable, btw. I live in a city where I'd kill for that.
In a city that has mostly bad taxis, I'd choose Uber. I London I might just not.
Maybe in the USA, which always gets first class treatment from US tech companies when it comes to maps. In the rest of the world, which doesn't have as good as policy of open government data, or consitant addressing schemes, smartphones aren't always a wonder tool.
Can't it be both? Because I'm pretty sure it's both.
Using london as an example of how things are broken is a terrible choice, and great example of how terrible this article is. London routinely ranks number one in the world in customer and tourist satisfaction for taxis. As someone who lives here, i think Uber has its place, but the taxi system is akin to a public good that needs regulation. The barriers to entry and designed to prevent abuse to the privileges that come with being licensed taxi. As a rider, the most important privileges to me are the ability to use bus lanes, and that i can hail a cab anywhere, anytime, knowing that the vehicle and driver will be safe. Without regulation, its impossible to obtain that standard.
It would be much more helpful to start with an informed and complete view of the situation (which varies in every city), than build a straw man from which the author argues for a complete reform in governance and regulation in all marketplaces(really? thats the point here?)
If you want to set minimum standards for taxi drivers, to ensure the safety of drivers, I am absolutely fine with that.
But anyone who wants to take the test should be able to, and there should be no artificial limit on the numbers.
Worth keeping in mind.
Likewise, the public tends to demand regulation when the cognitive overhead is prohibitive for an individual, bur more economic at scale by a neutral party. The latter is especially efficient ex ante as opposed to ad hoc.
Again, there are multiple views on what is rational, light and efficient depending only on abstraction and completeness.
 Eg, when faced with too much choice, under too small a timeframe, with opaque or imperfect information, and costly information processing techniques.
It has much less relevance for a purely call-and-wait service, which is why application to services like Uber is questionable.
Can there be too much regulation, too archaic? Sure, but I can't see how that motivates sidestepping it entirely.
In Stockholm, taxis (normal ones) are regulated in terms of insurance etc. but unlike most other cities, taxi prices are not regulated. This hasn't meant lower prices through healthy competition but rather hundreds of scam companies charging 10x the fares of the 2-3 largest companies that have 95% of the market. I miss the days of more regulation, but won't use Uber merely because they don't guarantee union wages etc like the other companies do.
This raises the question, do you refuse to use any service that doesn't guarantee union wages? If so, picking up an econ textbook will pay for itself in no time.
Also, in the US, I have the freedom to negotiate my own wages, rather than having them negotiated for me by a union over which I have no control. This means that if I work harder or smarter I will earn more. Personally, I like having control over my own destiny in this way, and society at large reaps the benefits of more motivated and productive workers.
To be clear: regardless of who sets the minimum wage, there is a minimum wage, and you aren't free to take a job under that level. To be honest, it would seem easier to "control" the union of which you are a member, than to adjust the minimum wage. It's just two organizations where one (congress/parliament) feels larger and further away.
A huge drawback of a single minimum wage (not differing between different parts of the labor market) is that it will spel trouble for companies when businesses on different parts of the cycle would be treated the same.
As an example, here companies relying on export such as truck makers are hugely sensitive to drops in global economy, and unions will accept frozen wages to limit layoffs as soon as bad times hit, which it does early in the cycle. Meanwhile service jobs or the public sector may be at a completely different point in the economy cycle, with perhaps 1-2 years before bad times hit. To use the same wages in both parts of the labor market would be a rather blunt solution.
However, I'd argue that in many (if not most) industries this is not the case. In fast-food and software, for example, the workers are free to move between employers at will, giving the workers significant power to negotiate.
I remain skeptical that governments (or unions) are smart enough to set the correct minimum wage without going under or overboard, which would hurt the unemployed and consumers. A better solution, I think, is a basic income system that ensures nobody is in poverty. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_income
In jobs like these, few employees tend to be unionized. I have seen strong unions modtly in manufacturing, health care and such.
Sidestepping lots of regulation is the only way to get around the archaic parts. There certainly won't be a referendum on taxis.
It looks like a perfect middle-class job destroying operation that centralizes profits in one multinational company.
As someone put it, those with the more powerful computers will win the economic spoils.
If that's possible politically , it would be interesting : the cities would have regulatory power to win over UBER, this very critical business that's might just be the future of transport will be in public hands and hopefully will be guided to the good of the community, and drivers will be compensated fairly.
But getting the politics right is very difficult.
E.g. in germany, your insurance status if an Uber car crashes is unknown - it depends whether the driver is insured. On the other hand, it is clearly regulated what happens when a registered taxi crashes down to what fees you have (or do not have) to pay.
I do agree that the regulation is probably outdated, but many of the aspects make sense if you see a Taxi network as an important piece of infrastructure.
But in the US, you have idiotic cities where taxis are expensive and some even charge per person, are dirty, dilapidated cars with rude drivers. Uber is nice there..
The taxis are always spotless and the drivers very pleasant.
However, in cities in Europe, the price of a taxi is simply way too high. Whether you can afford it or not, paying 20 Euros to be transported a few KM or 70 Euros if it's a few 10 KM's is just too insanely high. It is more something for abnormal occasions only.
What I noticed, though, are more and more cabs with doctored meters. That can be rather small time. For example: manipulating the kilometers driven in order to get a higher fare at the destination, or it can be very, very blatant.
I once took a cab from the airport to Silom. The initial fare was correct (35bt), but then the meter immediately went into cardiac arrest mode and just went ape shit.
This shouldn't be the case. The 35bt entry fee (about $1) gets you about a mile (depending on wait times), before it slowly goes up in 2 bt intervals. That meter must have been doctored by a factor of 10 - 15 (which I thought stupid as hell, because instantly noticeable).
A trip to my hotel at that meter rate would easily have been 3000 - 5000 baht. Instead of the normal 300 - 400 bt.
However, this being Thailand, what you should never, ever do is directly accusing the driver. There's that face saving thing, that Thais take very, very seriously.
Accusing him may get you into one of the less touristy areas in town, where you meet a number of the driver's friends wielding crow bars and baseball bats. And I'm not exaggerating here.
I resolved the dilemma, by pretending to consult my watch, making a shocked face and mumbling something around the line of "oh, Friday; traffic very, very bad in Bangkok, please bring me to Skytrain station").
The interesting thing was he knew that I knew, but didn't make any problems and brought me there.
While this example was extreme I experienced multiple rides that where slightly more expensive than they should have been in Bangkok.
Absent a special law, you can only sue a business for the negligence of its employees under the theory of respondeat superior: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Respondeat_superior. The essence of the theory is that businesses should be liable for the risks created by their employees acting within the scope of their employment.
However, respondeat superior does not apply when the tortfeasor (the person who acted negligently) is an independent contractor. When it comes to employees, a business can reduce incidences of negligence through training, setting procedures, etc. They exert a great deal of control over how the employee does his work. That's not true in the case of independent contractors, like Uber drivers.
Besides who would you sue ? "The driver" doesn't work too wel. You'd sue Uber to get the name of the driver in the first place.
This go-between-suit is pretty common in legal cases. What should happen is this. Judge agrees Uber owes your medical bills/restitution/whatever applies. Judge also agrees that Uber can get this amount from their driver. Then Uber has to cough up the money, but if they ask for delay in payment until their suit of the driver is finished, 99% certain they'll get that. Then you get the choice of getting the money from Uber, or joining Uber's suit against the driver (not a hard choice with Uber).
That's not true at all. And it REALLY depends on which state (in the USA) you are in. Florida for example is a no-fault state. Which means, basically, insurance companies are on the hook for the first 10k. Which is about how much it coast to mend a broken leg. Anything above that requires a lawsuit. And you don't sue the insurance company. You are suing a person (or company).
Lawsuits take time. Lots of time.
A taxi driver in Florida has different requirements. So does the company he drives for. The amount they pay out is much higher. Also, not every issue requires a lawsuit. Sometime you just get a bad driver. With Uber, who you gonna complain too? Uber?
In most states, complaining to the taxi commission is a serious offense and has to be answered by the driver and company he drives for.
I don't have a problem with Uber itself. If people want to drive others around, fine. BUT totally unfair to require taxi drivers to be licensed and not the Uber drives. It's unfair to make the taxi driver (and company) have much higher insurance requirements than Uber and it's divers. And it's unfair to the rider. If you are in an Uber car and you have a wreck; you better hope that driver has more then "what's minimum" for insurance. Chances are, he doesn't. And you're fucked.
PS: This is true for car services, and even courier services too, by the way.
So, the public makes sure the damage of you being hurt, unable to work and maybe turning out to be a case for social security because of being maltreated is avoided.
The more I see services like Ebay, AirBnB, Uber, Lyft, and so forth operate, the more I'm amazed at how much former regulation can be replaced with better information for all concerned.
or the many parallels to
I felt cheated _every time_ I took a regular cab. The meter could be set to various modes (L1- Day in City, L2- Evening in City / Suburb, L3 - Late nights, etc.) and I was never sure if it was on the correct mode. Also, the drivers were rude and acted as if they were doing me a favor.
Uber although slightly more expensive, was dramatically better. The drivers were polite, helpful and I never got scammed on the charge. Moreover, I didn't have to deal with foreign currency coins and notes.
The main issue is getting a taxi in really small towns in the middle of nowhere, but it seems unlikely that Uber would have someone in these places, simply because there isn't really a demand.
I find it really hard to see Uber as anything but a taxi company that tries to underbid the competition by not following the same rules as everyone else.
srsly. its embarassing.